Cubs Attracting Attention in Venezuela
Several Cubs minor leaguers who can be an MLB Rule 55 minor league free-agent (6YMiLFA) or who are eligible for selection in next month’s MLB Rule 5 draft are making noise in the Venezuelan Winter League (VWL).
Switch-hitting utility IF-OF Marwin Gonzalez hit a combined 251/295/333 in 109 games (426 PA) at Daytona and Tennessee in 2010, but the 21-year old Venezuelan has put-up an eye-popping 370/469/543 line so far in the VWL, as he currently leads the league in doubles, is 3rd in walks and AVG, 4th in OBP, and 6th in SLG. Gonzo is a versatile player (he has played 3B, SS, 2B, 1B, LF, and CF in the minor leagues) with doubles power that could morph into some HR pop as he fills-out, and while it is very unlikely that he will be added to the Cubs 40-man roster by the 11/20 roster-filing deadline (he is eligible for selection in the upcoming Rule 5 Draft), the youngster is at least making the Cubs think twice about it. Just off his performance in the VWL (which is basically equivalent to AA), Gonzalez could draw some interest in the Rule 5 Draft from a low revenue/small market MLB club looking to populate their bench with young, cheap, versatile labor with some upside, and Marwin Gonzalez is certainly that.
After hitting 344/398/588 with 39 doubles, 13 HR, and 30 SB (3 CS) in 102 games (412 PA) at AA Tennessee in 2010, 24-year old right-handed hitting OF Brandon Guyer is presently hitting 348/444/435 in the VWL, and is tied for 3rd in the league in stolen bases and is 6th in OBP. Along with RHP Chris Archer, Guyer (the Cubs 2010 Minor League Player of the Year) is a virtual lock to get added to the Cubs 40-man roster later this month. (Reed Johnson and Cody Ross would probably be the current MLB players most-comparable to Guyer).
Squarely sitting atop the bubble as far as whether he will get added to the Cubs 40-man roster, 25-year old Marquez Smith is hitting 255/356/549 so far in the VWL, and is tied for 3rd in the league in HR. A college teammate of Cubs OF Tyler Colvin at Clemson, the stocky (5’10 215) Smith (who looks a bit like a fire plug) appeared to turn the corner in 2010, hitting 297/371/556 between AA Tennessee and AAA Iowa, while pounding out 20 HR and 28 doubles in 107 games (392 PA). Although he is slightly below-average defensively at the hot corner, Smith probably will have to make it to the big leagues as an everyday 3B because he lacks the athleticism and versatility needed to play other positions (he was tried at 2B, but it didn’t work out). If he can continue to display HR power, the Cubs might look at Smith as they begin to consider candidates to replace Aramis Ramirez post-2011.
25-year old 6’2 RHP Austin Bibens-Dirkx is 1-2 with a 1.90 ERA (8th in the VWL) and 1.10 WHIP (10th in the VWL) so far. ABD was rescued by the Cubs from independent ball in 2009 (the right-hander had been released by the Seattle Mariners out of Minor League Camp), and he pitched well at Peoria in 2009 (7-2 with a 2.09 ERA and 0.91 WHIP) before moving up to AA Tennessee and then to AAA Iowa this past season (where he was a rotation starter), going a combined 10-7 with a 3.78 ERA and 1.17 WHIP at the two stops. Because he was released previously in his career, Bibens-Dirkx was/is eligible to be an MLB Rule 55 minor league free-agent post-2010. But even if he has re-signed with the Cubs for 2011 (the official MLB Rule 55 minor league FA list should be released tomorrow), he would still be eligible for selection in the Rule 5 Draft, and off his performance at Tennessee and Iowa during the 2010 regular season and in the VWL so far post-2010, he could get a look from somebody. A Christian rock artist during the off-season, Bibens-Dirkx was a teammate of Cubs minor league LHP Chris Siegfried at the U. of Portland before getting drafted by the Mariners in the 16th round of the June 2006 draft.
Veteran 1B-OF Jason Dubois is tied for the VWL lead in HR, as the 31-year old hopes to land a Spring Training NRI from somebody in 2011. And although Dubois did what he was paid to do in 2010 (hitting 20 HR in just 71 games at AAA Iowa) it is very unlikely that he will return to the Cubs organization next season. The main reason the Cubs signed Doo-Bee last off-season was to provide a RH power bat at Iowa to help offset the three lefty-sluggers (Micah Hoffpauir, Brad Snyder, and Bryan Lahair), but since none of the three are likely to return to the I-Cubs in 2011 (Hoffpauir and Snyder are out of minor league options, and Lahair is a minor league FA), there is really no reason for the Cubs to bring Dubois back to Des Moines, either